Vampires, where did they come from, and why? Was it something ancient races needed to believe in to survive? Was it something that was needed to explain away certain events that defied understanding?
How did the myth survive the upheavals of the middle ages and the “Age of Enlightenment”? How did it retain its fascination and dread amongst the people?
How did the vampire find its way into the hearts and minds of modern times and into the lives of so many in the world today? More’s the point, where to from here?
Our guests today will help us try and gain some insight into some of those questions by giving us the benefit of combined years of experience, knowledge and study. At the end of it you, dear reader, may have more questions, and if that is the case then we hope we have encouraged you to look a little further than the literary and celluloid fantasies of popular entertainment. The enduring legacy of the Vampire stretches back into the mists of ancient history and stretches forward to who knows where.
It gives us great pleasure to welcome to Real Vampire Life the owner of the facebook site “The Vampirologist“, and the blog page of the same name, Anthony Hogg and joining him this evening, the owner, creator and editor of the Vampire magazine “The Dark Rose Journal” Julia DarkRose Ray.
It also gives us great pleasure to welcome back our friends and contributors author, musician, artist and entrepreneur Gabrielle Faust and resident historical and arcane authority, and an administrator at Smoke and Mirrors, Tania (a.k.a Hellkat)
RVL: Good evening to you all. Thank you very much indeed for giving of your time to participate in this presentation, we are most grateful.
AH: Thanks for having me!
JDR: You are so very welcome. I am honoured that you asked me to be a part of this discussion. I truly hope that my answers, based on my personal experiences, will be of some help, to someone, somewhere.
GF: It is an honor and a pleasure to have this opportunity. Thank you.
Ancient links, folklore and histories
Arguably, the most ancient of references we have to creatures of “vampiric” habits are to be found in the Hindu holy text The Rig Veda. Evidence indicates that the Rig Veda was composed in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, roughly between 1700–1100 BC  noted as the early Vedic Period. There are also strong linguistic and cultural similarities with the early Iranian Avesta, a primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism deriving from the Proto-Indo-Iranian times, often associated with the early Andronovo and Sintashta-Petrovka cultures of c. 2200 – 1600 BC.
RVL: Given the representation of the vampire myth in almost all of the world’s ancient cultures do you think that the myth had one single source as a beginning or do you think it was a common and simultaneous belief in many places at the same time?
HK: I believe that there are many types of human beings and so there would be many types of vampiric presence. Like trees there are many types of Willow trees all over depending on the climate and region. The same could be stated for any life force type. I know that certain members of the community would like to think of us as singular or special but I am afraid we can be classified as no different from any other species. Every species has needs and tastes for consumption, ours is just a bit different and this is a common feature in mother nature. (meaning the needs of animals not necessarily “vampirism” )
AH: First, we need to quantify just what the vampire “myth” is. I’d say there are cross-cultural elements to it, for instance, the return of the dead, feeding off the living, that kind of thing. It’s our inclination to lump all these diverse elements into a single, convenient heading. But the myth – and the term we use for it – originated from Slavic sources. That, as far as I’m concerned, is the bedrock of the vampire myth. Therefore, I’m more inclined to think it had something approximating a single source. But that’s not quite an accurate statement. It’d be more accurate to say the myth is a fusion of various elements, that’ve layered upon each other over time. There’s also cultural twists to consider, when we realise that vampires in even narrow geographic regions, can be distinct from each other.
JDR: Mythology, like tribalism and superstition are things that are instinctive in we humans, ways of thinking and reacting ingrained in our animal response systems (our truest inner selves). This view of these modes of behavior and thinking leads to a rejection of the notion that they are just aberrations of a primitive or savage nature; for better or worse they become normal impulses that many still have to come to terms with and embrace.
The idea that the dead can be recalled from the underworld by offerings of blood is very ancient. Ever since Homer’s time we in the West have had the superstitious belief that blood could recall the dead to life. The undead, that is vampires and other revenants, were believed to be called forth by the moon, from whence it was believed came forth the blood that made the living. The moon was seen as the home of the dead in those long, long, ago days. The Greek word for vampire ‘sarcomenos’ may be interpreted as ‘flesh of the moon’. A little interesting fact, according to ‘The Women’s Encyclopedia’, by Barbara Walker, the Siamese name for their lunar festival is ‘Vampra’.
Human beings have always been mythmakers. Archaeologists have unearthed Neanderthal graves containing weapons, tools, and the bones of a sacrificed animal, all of which suggest some kind of belief in a future world that was similar to their own.
From a very early date, therefore, it appears that human beings were distinguished by their ability to have ideas that went beyond their everyday experience. human beings fall easily into despair, and from the very beginning we invented stories that enabled us to place our lives in a larger setting, that revealed an underlying pattern, and gave us a sense that, against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, life had meaning and value.
Another peculiar characteristic of the human mind is its ability to have ideas and experiences that we cannot explain rationally. We have imagination, a faculty that enables us to think of something that is not immediately present, and that, when we first conceive it, has no objective existence. The imagination is the faculty that produces religion and mythology.
Mythology and science both extend the scope of human beings. Like science and technology, mythology, is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.
Mythology was therefore designed to help us cope with the problematic human predicament. We all want to know where we came from, but because our earliest beginnings are lost in the mists of prehistory, we have created myths about our forefathers that are not historical but help to explain current attitudes about our environment, neighbors and customs. we also want to know where we are going, so we have devised stories that speak of a posthumous existence–though, not many myths envisage immortality for human beings. and we want to explain those sublime moments, when we seem to be transported beyond our ordinary concerns.
So, after long-winded response, yes, it was a common and simultaneous belief. No matter what culture, human beings all share the same basic fears and longings.
GF: I believe, as with all myths, each culture around the world has developed their own version as the idea of the “vampire” in ancient mythology is born out of humanity’s base fears about their own mortality and sexuality and the transference of energy through either death or orgasm or another means entirely. Perhaps, there may have been primary root sources for the myth when humanity was more isolated to certain regions. However, it has been proven that cultures that had never interacted with one another developed similar concepts, though the shape and form they took were quite drastically different.
RVL: Do you think we can safely assume that it was the ancient concept of blood being “the source” of life that gave substance to the fear of, and superstition about, it being “stolen”?
JDR: *Laughs* I believe I answered this in my above response. A resounding Yes! To re-cap: The idea that the dead can be recalled from the underworld by offerings of blood is very ancient. Ever since Homer’s time we in the West have had the superstitious belief that blood could recall the dead to life. The undead, that is vampires and other revenants, were believed to be called forth by the moon, from whence it was believed came forth the blood that made the living. The moon was seen as the home of the dead in those long, long, ago days. The Greek word for vampire ‘sarcomenos’ may be interpreted as ‘flesh of the moon’.
GF: I do believe that is one of the aspects of vampirism, which helped to mold the mythos. It was obvious to ancient humanity that when blood was drained from the body, it resulted in death, and thus one’s lifeforce was taken from them.
AH: The idea that blood is essential to life is measured by the effect of it being lost, though wounds, battles, whathaveyou. How it was connected to theft by supernatural beings, is harder to say. Perhaps observations were made on anaemia suffers who looked “drained” and it went from there. I’d be more inclined to think the superstition arose from concepts on loss of vitality, or life force. We see that in the incubus/succubus stories, the mara, etc. Blooddrinking seems to have been a later, literal manifestation of this concern.
HK: Anyone can see how blood has been a cliche subject, when you lose too much blood you die, simple. So one can lead, easily to the fact that if someone “steals” your blood that they are looking to steal your life. Blood is the most coveted material object on the planet, also one that is unspoken of mostly because of the original cliche discussed.
People need to think for themselves, blood can be remade, our bodies do this naturally. No one is trying to steal life, perhaps just life force which can also be reproduced or for those who believe in the energy can not be created nor destroyed, a movement of energy by the intelligent life form to adhere to animalistic energy need, or as we call it feeding. The blood, I believe is a necessary (for some) physical representation of that energy/lifeforce exchange.
RVL: Many of the ancient “vampires” were associated with disembodied, or metamorphic, “spirits”, such as the Tagalog (Philippines) Mandurugo and the Impundulu of the Eastern Cape region of Africa, how important do you think it was for the mythical vampire to graduate from these type of creatures to “physical” incarnations to sustain the mythology?
HK: Not necessarily, as I had stated life force comes in many shapes and sizes and are completely known or unknown to us. Some people will not like my answer to this one, but here it is nonetheless, who knows, nature is a mysterious beast and to be honest how would be be there to figure it out. There are times that we need to accept that we can’t know everything that goes on on this planet.
GF: I think the progression from spirit or demon to a physical supernatural creature was largely due to humanity’s growing disillusionment with the old ways and superstitions. As civilization progressed, humanity became more jaded to tales of spirits and demons and such, creatures that were intangible and hard to believe in. It is far easier to believe in a physical flesh and blood creature that walks the earth, rather than what is invisible to the eye.
JDR: An experience of transcendence has always been part of the human experience. We seek out moments of ecstasy, when we feel deeply touched within and lifted momentarily beyond ourselves. At such times, it seems that we are living more intensely than usual, firing on all cylinders, and inhabiting the whole of our humanity. Like poetry and music, mythology should awaken us to rapture, even in the face of death and despair we may feel at the prospect of annihilation. If a myth ceases to do that, it has died and outlived its usefulness.
Mythology is not an early attempt at history, and does not claim that its tales are objective fact. Like a novel, an opera or a ballet, myth is make-believe; it is a game that transfigures our fragmented, tragic world, and helps us to glimpse new possibilities by asking-what if?‘–a question which has also provoked some of our most important discoveries in philosophy, science and technology.
There is never a single, orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth. Human nature does not change much, many of these myths, devised in societies that could not be more different from our own, still address our most essential fears and desires.
AH: The physicality of the beings has some correlation with the need for “evidence”. We see that in the 18th century vampire exhumations, Tournefort’s visit to Mykonos. So, as a response to the decline of supernaturalism in the Enlightenment era, it was, in a way, vital. The other interesting angle is that the physical aspect of the vampire, especially in the examples given, relate to living members of society. These vampires are essentially physical representations of cultural taboos – the scapegoats Bruce A. McClelland writes about in Slayers and Their Vampires (2006).
RVL: Why do you think that certain ancient deities, such as the Tibetan Lord of Death, Yama and the Mayan deity Camazotz, were afforded vampiric characteristics amongst their respective pantheons, as it was with single figures from many mythologies?
AH: Firstly, the vampire characteristics associated with Camazotz are very flimsy. He was not a blooddrinker, despite his association with vampire bats. He decapitates one of the Hero Twins in the Popul Vuh and that’s about as far as it goes. Yama’s vampiric connection is overstated, too.
A better case would be the ancient Egyptian Sekhmet, who went on a blood-binge. What we have here, is grafting on things we determine to be “vampiric characteristics” at the expense of viewing those deities’ characteristics as a whole. I consider it to be shoehorning. Even the Sekhmet example I gave, relates to a specific incident. Why does this happen? A few reasons, maybe. One is to conflate supernaturalism with supernaturalism – the early writers on vampires mined history, theology, legends and myths for vampiric parallels – and the other occurs because the more we try to refine what a vampire “is”, the more broad the application becomes: we start seeing vampires everywhere.
JDR: I do not believe that the characteristics of which you have asked about are necessarily vampiric characteristics. Drinking human blood, as is depicted of Yama, in the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’, is a common trait amongst deities in mythology. Frankly, a not uncommon trait amongst other cultures in our modern world.
HK: Vampirism has been seen in most religious constructs, mostly on the darker side. Cain for Christians, Lilith for the Hebrews and many others. Religions often construct or change belief systems off of the times, trends and the systems other religions (mostly for conformity). It could be that the automatic negativity of the essence of the vampire, based on the blood theory in previous question, has placed itself (what seemed naturally) in the darker/sinful side of religious schema. One could also say, based on my response, that historical figures like Vlad the Impaler could have changed the versions of religious texts, since there are so many converted versions of each (regardless of religion).
GF: Vampires are the ultimate predator of humanity. They are fierce and immortal, presiding over humanity as both their keepers and hunters. It seems only natural that vampiric qualities would be given to gods and demigods.
Former Church of
Saint Sulpice ~
The Church influence and the 17th, 18th & 19th Century
In the middle ages the church reinterpreted “vampires” by taking them from their folkloric roots and changing them into minions of Satan, redefining them as dead people able to rise from their grave, in a semblance of life; much as Jesus rose from death and appeared to his followers.
The 12th-century English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of revenants. However, accounts of vampiric beings in England are rare after this date.  The Old Norse draugr is another medieval example of an undead creature with similarities to the vampire. 
RVL: Undoubtedly the religious influence on the folklore of the vampire was a milestone in the evolution of the archetype, what do you think prompted the religious institutions of the day to recreate the vampire in this way?
JDR: I believe that the religious institutions of the day recreated the vampire in the way that they did for the same reasons they recreated everything, to control the herd. Vampires and Witches were (still are) perfect scape goats and/or symbols to use for fear and hate mongering. These 2 mythological creatures (for the Witches of that time, or at least, the type of witchcraft poor people of the hearth were being accused of, was indeed mythological)are exactly the type of minion that dear ole Satan would employ, possess, turn to the “dark” side, etc..
GF: As with all ancient lore, modern religion knew there was power in adapting the ideas of old and integrating them into their own mythologies in order for the “pagans” to more closely identify with their new doctrine and be convinced to follow a new path. With a terrifying a lore as the vampire mythos, it was natural for that which was not understood to be labeled “evil” and a creature of the Devil’s inspiration.
AH: If the Church has a set supernaturalist worldview, then logically, it would also view supernatural occurrences and beings through its own lens. Simply put, in Christian teachings, supernatural phenomena stems from one of two sources: God or the Devil. The vampire was a malignant being, therefore, it was satanic.
That’s not to say other agendas might’ve played a factor. In order to maintain dominance as an institution, the institution must stay relevant to its people. Its members. If you present yourself as the one true combatant against such dark forces, you can also reaffirm your “place” in society. That certain priests also profited from vampire exorcisms – a practice criticised by Pope Benedict XIV and Archbishop Giuseppe Davanzati – would be another factor.
HK: A total lack of understanding from both parties, let me explain. I will use the example of Cain and Abel, we all know biblically that Cain kills Abel in jealousy and “GOD” casts Cain to darkness. “So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Nod being an evil dark place where Cain was forced to drink the life of others. Being that “GOD” cast Cain out for the sins against his brother and Cain has vampiric qualities, then the simple minded (which was most of the uneducated population of the time) would conclude that vampires are that of sin.
The religious influence is still that of the times, vampires are beings that were not understood, so they were scary. Same could be said of the vampires, they also being animalistic held true to the “scary” schema by feeding in a forceful animalistic manner, aiding the archetype further.
As a personal note the religious beliefs, folklore and archetype also had a hand in the treatment of women and pagans.
RVL: Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe. Do you think this was due, in the main, to the continued efforts of organised religion to demonise the formerly superstitious nature of the vampire?
AH: I wouldn’t say belief in vampires increased dramatically, so much as it was given better coverage. This syncs with the rise of mass media – as it was the newspapers of the time that got in on the act.
Western Europe primarily learned about vampires from coverage of the Arnold Paole case – or, more accurately, exhumations following that initial outbreak – in 1732. That’s when the European press stood up and took note. What seemed to intrigue them, was that this report wasn’t made solely by superstitious peasants, but examined by a field surgeon, who didn’t impose a sceptical interpretation on what he’d encountered. This was prefigured by the Plogojovitz exhumation a few years before, but it was the Paole case, for some reason, that got people talking.
The other factor here, is that the regions in question had recently been under Ottoman rule. So, we could argue, that a lot of this was happening behind “closed doors”, at least, in the sense that Western Europeans weren’t as aware of what was going on, in contrast with reporting more “accessible” by Austro-Hungarian sources. Indeed, what’s clear from this reports, is that the phenomena had been taking place some time already. The Plogojovitz report occurred in the wake of concerns about an epidemic – something that had apparently taken place during “Turkish times”.
If we view this phenomena through the lens of “mass hysteria”, then we perceive that because much more was being written about the subject in the wake of the Paole case. Even at these early stages, all kinds of theories were being formulated to explain the phenomena – the most famous by French Dominican monk, Dom Augustin Calmet. But even at the time he wrote about it, mainstream interest had died down somewhat.
The Church’s demonization of the phenomena was already set in place. However, there was also pressure on the Church to play down the phenomena and to explain it away as superstition. This would lead to the Magia Posthuma Act of 1755, initiated by Empress Maria Theresa. It highlights the Enlightenment’s influence on the Church in order to make it fall in line with scientific teachings – and to learn from the errors of its witchcraft persecution.
HK:You stated it, “the Age of Enlightenment” the rage over vampires is not that of folklore or the “old” myth that comes from the term. Enlightenment is coming in to play with the new definition of the word Vampire, people are putting new definition to what a vampire is and means and that is where the nostalgia comes into play. Just think about it, the word Vampire that we use is a poor excuse for the needs that we have, but again that goes back to the blood is life phrase. We need energy/life so is blood is life one could conclude that we need blood and for the most part that does work for our needs. So the hysteria is actually for the energetic, essentially (to them) new, meaning of the word Vampire.
GF: Anything organized religion could instantly identify and explain with facts was deemed the act of either God or the Devil. With the rise of plagues and other diseases across Europe, it was a logical course of action for the Church and other organized religions to attribute such darkness to the work of the Devil. And, as aforementioned, since the vampire was then associated with the Devil, a greater fear of this particular supernatural creature manifested itself in mass hysteria.
JDR: I got nothing for this one. Sounds good, sure. Sorry.
RVL: From as early as 1672 local reports, in Europe, cited vampire cases such as Jure Grando of the village of Khring near Tinjan , and those involving the corpses of Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole from Serbia  In a number of cases government officials examined the bodies, wrote case reports, and published books throughout Europe and the hysteria, commonly referred to as the “18th-Century Vampire Controversy”, raged for a generation. To what extent do you think this “government” involvement encouraged the growth of the vampire superstitions?
AH: They encouraged it by giving it a sense of “legitimacy” – by virtue of taking the matter seriously. But I say “seriously” in the sense of thorough, in-depth coverage of the phenomena, instead of dismissing it outright. Voltaire famously wrote:
“What! is it in our eighteenth century that vampires exist? Is it after the reigns of Locke, Shaftesbury, Trenchard, and Collins? Is it under those of d’Alembert, Diderot, St. Lambert, and Duclos that we believe in vampires, and that the reverend father Dom Calmet, Benedictine priest of the congregation of St. Vannes, and St. Hidulphe, abbé of Senon — an abbey of a hundred thousand livres a year, in the neighborhood of two other abbeys of the same revenue — has printed and reprinted the history of vampires, with the approbation of the Sorbonne, signed Marcilli?”
However, it was also the involvement of field surgeons and the like, that gave the cases an unofficial seal of approval. We have to remember, though, that this phenomena didn’t occur in major cities, but isolated regions, where the investigators and authorities were essentially at the mercy of their populace. The Imperial Provisor of Gradisk, for instance, went along with the Plogojovitz exhumation because the local village had threatened to leave, en masse.
HK: Be assured that the government, at least where I am in America, is bordering communism. The once completely free nation is told what is normal to where, carry and how to live. They even have legislation on what we consume. They are involved, even if silent, they are involved. You can know that without government funding there would be no such thing as Renfield Syndrome. Also knowing that mass murderers have also suffered from this may have peaked more interest. But whether we are talking the mythical or real vampire the government is there. There has even been talk of government testing to make mythical vampire types with a virus as a type of super warrior. Again that is just rumor and not considered a credible source, whether or not the information is true. Honestly, with everything I have posted you know that they have to have had some involvement but we will never really know how much influence that they have actually given.
JDR: Well, I don’t think much about it, that’s for sure. Truly, I’ve never given it much thought, for, to me, it matters not and does not alter one thing about the creature that I am. Off hand, I’ll go with yes, it probably played a significant role in hyping up any hysteria and continued and increased fear of the vampire superstition. Whenever a government slaps an official seal on something, people tend to take it as gospel.
GF: No doubt, this “government” involvement fanned the flames of hysteria and only further cemented the mythos in the hearts and minds of the people they governed. By attributing such power to the vampire in creation of fear and superstition, they did the opposite of calm the people, but work them into a further frenzy.
The Vampyre – Polidori
The literary Vampire
Perhaps the biggest transformation of the vampire into the the archetypal figure we know today came with the 18th century and such poetry as; The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Burger, Die Braut von Corinth (The Bride of Corinth (1797) by Johann Wolfgangh von Goethe, Robert Southey’s ‘s Thalaba the destroyer (1801) and John Stagg’s “The Vampyre” (1810)
Aside from the appearance of a “vampire” in his poem The Giaour, Byron was also credited with the first prose fiction piece concerned with vampires: The Vampyre (1819). However this was in reality authored by Byron’s personal physician, John Polidori, who adapted an enigmatic fragmentary tale of his illustrious patient, “Fragment of a Novel” (1819), also known as “The Burial: A Fragment“.
The Vampyre: A Tale was highly successful and the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.
RVL: Undoubtedly, drawing on a popular store of mythology, history, superstition and almost certainly his acquaintanceship with a friend from Budapest, Bram Stoker went on to create, in 1897, the most famous and enduring vampire character in history in his novel Dracula. If this event had not occurred what do you think would have happened to the vampire of myth and history?
HK: History is history, essentially Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a romanticism of Vlad Tempus and his workings, who apparently has his own website, at http://www.vladtheimpaler.com/ .
Though one could hypothesise that without the book there would be no movie and apparently if there is no movie then people don’t know about it. So less people would know about Vlad but the history stands unchanged. I think that the myth and history would stand true, just have less of a fan base. Now I think perhaps people would not have as bad of stereotypes if they did not know the movie or book, a clean slate so to speak.
JDR: I think that clearly we would not have the vampire archetype that we currently have. I think that the vampire of myth and history would have evolved a bit, if not, quite differently. Of course, that is assuming that no one else came along and gave the vampire massive sex-appeal and somewhat of the beginnings of a “dark knight” persona.
AH: That’s a good question. Dracula was very much lightning in a bottle – but didn’t become majorly successful until it was adapted for the stage and screen. At that point, vampire literature had largely moved away from the undead variety, to psychic vampirism, in tune with popular occultic sentiments of the time. So, in that sense, it’s likely the genre would’ve continued to follow that thread – which was still present even after Dracula’s publication. With Dracula, Stoker managed to fuse age-old superstition with a modern, contemporary take – in tune with its epistolary format and emphasis on science and technology. That novel essentially set the clock back – but brought it forward at the same time.
The novel also did something else intriguing, though – which was “create” modern vampire lore. For instance, the vampire’s lack of reflection, transforming into a bat, all popular attributes – those are inventions of Stoker. However, the way Stoker presented his work (in reality, a fusion of disparate folkloric elements) seemed so “legit”, it came to be accepted as actual vampire lore.
If Stoker hadn’t written his novel, I’d say vampires would’ve continued down the occultic path, its undead, corporeal elements further stripped away. More emphasis would’ve been placed on the metaphoric applications of vampirism, as seen in contemporary works like Philip Burne-Jones’ The Vampire and the “vamps” that spun off from it. All popular works will spin off dilutions of the source material.
The influence of Dracula cannot be overstated – a great body of modern vampire literature (fiction and non-fiction) would likely not exist. Look at the major works produced last century – Montague Summers’ The Vampire, His Kith and Kin and The Vampire in Europe, Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu’s In Search of Dracula, Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles – all owe a debt to Dracula.
I’d even go so far as to say that if Dracula hadn’t been published, very few people would be interested in the subject today.
GF: That is truly hard to say. Bram Stoker was not the first author of his time to romanticize the vampire in literature. Therefore, I believe the mythos would have continued a similar path of evolution into the modern interpretation. However, it is hard to say just how long the mainstream popularization would have taken or what the end result might have been.
~ by Mr. Jack on Deviantart
The 20th Century and the contemporary scene
The 20th Century dawned and with it came a new lease of life for the vampire beginning with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Nosferatu and subsequently Universal’s Dracula (1931), starring Béla Lugosi as the Count in what was the first talking film to portray Dracula. The decade saw several more vampire films, most notably Dracula’s Daughter in 1936. Suddenly the vampire was popular fare for a whole new audience and the legend of the sinister Count Dracula grew in leaps and bounds.
Unfortunately the 20th century also saw the emergence of so called “vampire crimes”, crimes committed by individuals that mimicked the behaviour of the literary and folkloric vampire. Individuals such as The Vampire of Hanover, Fritz Haarmann (1918) The Vampire of Düsseldorf, Peter Kürten (1929) the Vampire of Sacramento, Richard Chase (1977) and into the 21st century with Daniel and Manuela Ruda (2001) amongst others.
RVL: In your opinion, do you think that with the newly arrived mass access to the entertainment version of the vampire it was inevitable that people would begin to emulate, in some manner, the seemingly powerful, dark figure?
JDR: Yes, I think that it was inevitable that people, especially people in the 21st century, would begin to emulate the vampire of fiction. Just like the gods and goddesses that man creates in his own image. Images of a perfect self that they can only achieve through worship of something that they think is higher than themselves. Man, for whatever reasons, I blame religion, has decided to believe the brainwashing that they cannot save themselves, that they are not their own divine and that they cannot acquire all the power that they equate without outside deities, within themselves. People have done the same thing with the fictional/mythological vampire. All these qualities (except, of course, physical immortality and literally turning into a wolf or a giant man-bat, or smoke) can and are already within people. Perhaps that thought scares some. So, they blame an outside force, the vampire. Perhaps they can’t accept that they just are the very attributes that the fictional vampire are, well mostly, I mean we have to remember that we are discussing fictional characters. However, the main qualities that set the fictional vampire apart from man, are truly already a part of humanity. I guess giving your innate qualities a name, even a mythological/fictional label, is just easier for most people. People (the herd) want to feel apart of the herd yet they want to still be a part of the herd. Makes no kind of sense to me. Anyway, so they want the label of vampire for all the obvious reasons (sex appeal, power, beauty, wisdom, makes it easier to get laid, and so on), without having to claim the “evil” qualities of the vampire. They want to be different yet they still want the herd to embrace them and love them. So, now we have this even more watered down, and pathetic version of the great mythological/fictional creature…the Vampire. Crap, I hope that answered your question. Think I strayed a bit.
GF: There are three primary aspects of the connection between the vampire and the human psyche. In one respect the vampire represents the darker aspect of human nature and is an element of chaos, that which exists beyond our control. In ancient times people would blame a “vampire” for everything from societal upheaval, to strong-willed women, to plagues. It was a symbol of an instability which humanity denied responsibility for. The vampire is also a representation of our darkest desires. It is a creature of raw sexuality that exists in a world without the stringent societal taboos often implemented by humanity out of a fear of the unknown. Lastly, the vampire is the epitome of the unobtainable—that which we desire to be and will never achieve. While not always portrayed as thus, the vampire is often depicted as the embodiment of wealth, beauty, elegance, strength, youth, charisma and sexual prowess. In times of societal or personal instability, the vampire offers the perfect means of escapism from the struggles of everyday mortal life. We are drawn to the romantic darkness of this creature and the popularization by mass media has cultivated an even greater audience for the genre.
AH: I certainly see parallels. After all, what is the vampire’s greatest appeal by those who emulate it? Power. Power over people. We see that in the vampire’s charisma, its place in the food chain, its predation on the “weak”. It’s very much the “bad boy” of the supernatural world. A monster with cunning and intelligence. That said, we should make a distinction between people who emulate the vampire – or are part of the “Scene” with the murderous psychopaths mentioned in the example.
If we look into the background of the criminals mentioned, the main trait shared by all was bloodlust. Psychopathic bloodlust. There’s not much in the way of them consciously patterning their behaviour on vampire lore and fiction. Instead, the vampire is a prism by which we view their behaviour and crimes. That goes back to our tendency to automatically associated vampire-like characteristics with vampires, themselves.
HK: Yes it is in human nature, even now, how many people come out of the movie “The Fast and the Furious” and peel out or get into an accident because they think that they can’t pull off what the trained stunt drivers did in the movie. Knowing that we are compared to these beautifully mystic and darkly romanticized figures is a great gesture that goes to the wayside when my electric bill needs to be paid or I am tired from unsatisfactory sleep due to energy needs. There are no red eyes and wall climbing in my house, sorry for the disappointment. I am no higher in the rat race than any other normal person (going back to the species thing) I have alternate needs than others in my species that actually put me lower on the “living with ease” totem poll.
RVL: In his 1931 treatise On the Nightmare, Welsh psychoanalyst Ernest Jones noted that vampires are symbolic of several unconscious drives and defence mechanisms. He cited emotions such as love, guilt, and hate to be fuelling the idea of the return of the dead to the grave. Similarly, desiring a reunion with loved ones, mourners may project the idea that the recently dead must, in return, yearn the same. From this, he opined, arises the belief that folkloric vampires and revenants visit relatives, particularly their spouses, first.
As we are, I presume, laypersons in the realm of psychodynamics, do you believe that there is a certain psychological element that must be present in order for a person to live as a real modern living vampire?
AH: I’d definitely agree with that – though what that psychological element – or elements – is, will certainly vary from person to person. My emphasis on the psychological angle is because there’s no proof that blooddrinking – or energy draining – fulfils a biological need. The human body is simply not “designed” to drink blood or sap energy. I don’t think anyone is born with the innate knowledge that they’re vampires – I think they view their condition via association with vampires, that is, certain traits we associate with the undead are characteristics they can relate to and adapt. It’s a testament to the vampire’s metaphoric malleability that such a process can happen. But let’s also keep in mind that people identify with other legendary beings, too, like werewolves and there’s the “otherkin” movement to take into consideration, too. If we strip the vampire down to what it represents for that specific person, then we may get a better idea of why the real modern living vampire associate themselves with the archetype.
HK: There is a psychological element in all mannerisms and decisions made by any animal on the planet regardless of intelligence level. (I am in the sport of studying psychodynamics) What actually springs to mind is Sigmund Freud’s out look on the subconscious and the three primal needs of all thinking animals. “Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a very special object, the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and reproduce, and it is guided toward those ends by its needs — hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex.” (http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html) This was converted and more deeply explained by Maslow.
Being a Real Vampire is no different from the essential basic needs as described above, just some of the details, like food have a different ideology.
JDR: Yes, I do believe that. I believe that a person who lives as a real modern living vampire (of course, I mean my definition of a living vampire: someone who embraces all that they are. Not the watered down, pathetic, ego mongering version that has infected the OVC/VC) must have a certain mind set. For everything that we experience is in one way or another, “psychological”, yes? Everything we experience is through our brains, ergo, psychological.
GF: Absolutely. However, there are also the spiritual and physiological aspects in which a person is inclined to identify with the modern living vampire. The psychological aspect of existing as such is only one element. That said, I do believe it is a strength of character and mind that is unique to the modern living vampire for to pursue this path of existence takes a stalwart belief in the self as existing beyond the limitations of average humanity to survive and thrive.
RVL: There are a great many “definitions” of modern real vampirism available to us today, and while a majority of these seem to stem, in some way, from the Black Veil publications of the early nineties do you believe that the simplest and most elemental definition has been obscured by all the discussion and argument?
HK: Everything is subjective and can be argued, take any of the work of philosophers like Socrates and Plato as example. It is up to the beholder to determine for themselves whether the articles and additions are obscured or really add to the essence of the overall message. For me personally, Albert said it best, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Albert Einstein. That is what works best for me. The essentials should not be over thought, anything else feel free to over analyze and break down. Eventually through this the simple basics can be slightly altered but never fully changed, because the simple first thought is sometimes the best.
JDR: I answer this wonderful question with another big fat resounding YES! You hit that one right in the bulls-eye!
AH: I do, because what we see with publications like Black Veil, is an attempt to homogenise the “Scene”. This can be a positive and negative thing. Positive in the sense that it encourages a sense of community and belonging and establishes ethics, rules and laws. But it’s negative in the sense that it can easily be abused by power-mongers and suppresses individual expressions. But those principles go for any institutional movement be it cultural, societal, religious, political, etc. The Vampire Community is no different in that sense.
The other angle is that it’s human nature to try to classify and catalogue things. Applying blanket terms and definitions helps us understand something better. It’s also more convenient. What’s easier to digest? A set list of behaviours and characteristics or chronicling every single individual distinction and variant between real modern living vampire? The discussions and arguments will always continue, because people will always disagree with what the term means. After all, it’s fundamentally an individual thing. On the plus side, these discussions can also promote awareness and understanding.
GF: Indeed. It is only natural to debate the definition of one’s existence within the confines of a culture. However, I do feel at times that the many facets of the world of modern real vampirism is often belittled and defiled by those that seek a one true and pure path as defined by those from the past. I have met many different types of modern real vampires and no two are the same. Nor are any two paths the same. It is an exploration of the self and a constant evolution of one’s being to be explored and not ridiculed or dismissed by traditionalists. If we based all of our notions about any subject on one particular book, we would be blind to progress and change and no better than those who condemn us for what we are.
RVL: How do you define your own personal vampirism and what advice would you offer to those who might be seeking, or struggling, to define theirs?
AH: My own personal vampirism is really my interest in the subject – it consumes me! I’m not a vampire, myself, though. I don’t identify as one. It’s funny how having an interest in the subject can invoke those assumptions. I remember once mentioning to a group that I was a vampirologist, and one of the guys jokingly covered his neck! I wasn’t that peckish.
My best advice to those seeking to define their vampirism is to read up on the subject. The first stop should be Joseph Laycock’s Vampires Today (2009), to get a better context for it. I’ll add that as a Christian, I can’t advocate vampirism – you know the whole drill about not drinking blood – but I can understand that not everyone shares my religious views and there must be a lot of confusion and struggle over the condition. If it’s seriously troubling the person in question, I’d advise seeking therapy. Especially if they feel inclined toward violent thoughts and actions. But if not, then definitely read up on the subject, to gain a deeper understanding for what the Vampire Community – and real modern living vampires – are all about.
JDR: I don’t believe that I really define my vampirism. Well, not anymore. I am just me. I do not wish to spend my life trying to figure out why. I choose to simply live my life as the creature that nature, in her infinite wisdom, created me to be. I honor our Earth and humanity, by being that creature. I help keep an important balance. I love who I am. I embrace all of me. I revel in drinking human blood. I am a good person, so I have no desire to hurt anyone. I bring only pleasure and happiness to those around me, with my vampiric ways *laughs*. There is no need to struggle. Part of being a living vampire is about strength, courage, and having a valiant spirit. You must be true to who you really are not what a community or a book tells you that you are. I came to understand my truest self without books, definitions, communities, groups, or whatever. I came to myself strictly through myself. You must not allow yourself to be influenced by others. It is possible. It takes strength of character and courage that you might not know that you have the ability to possess.
HK: I considered my path to balance as that of most teenagers. The first ten years or so is a rough ride and you do things that you are not proud of, but at the time you thought were correct. You will find what works best for you, and then as a famous rapper says, “Do You”. This is path that cannot be figured out in a day, took me longer than 10 years and I am far from patient. As in anything in life, educate yourself, try new things and find your balance.
GF: I often hesitate to box myself in with a definition, but the simplest way of describing my inherent nature is that of a psi vampire with a deep-rooted connection to the fae and a predilection to sexual energy. That said, as I continue to evolve and explore my own identity, I leave room for change. For those seeking to understand their own natures, I only suggest that you always keep an open mind and heart and never stop search for the truth. And never let anyone tell you that your way is “wrong” for this is a world absent of absolutes. Those that prescribe to absolutes have stunted their own growth.
Into the future
RVL: Given the state of flux and near turmoil of the so named “Vampire Community” over the last decade do you believe it is possible to achieve a level of cohesiveness and common purpose in the sub-culture today?
HK: I am not sure that it is achievable, as [Lady] CG once said, “It’s like herding cats”. We are from all races, religions, ethnic and upbringings finding a common opinion is going to be a lot of work. The funny thing is that most of us have the same common goals in mind just different ideas or details of how to get there. Even if it were possible… then what?
AH: I do believe that can be achieved, sure, but only in the sense of a community being primarily civil. You can never eradicate dissent and disagreement, completely. I operate under the assumption that, as a whole, the Vampire Community gets along reasonably well. Though, I could be wrong – it’s not a community I’m an active member in!
But I’ll say as long as there’s a bedrock of support and civility and respect toward fellow members, some level – a large level – of cohesiveness and common purpose can be achieved.
GF: That is hard to say. I have been in the community a very long time and it seems to breed a strange sort of antagonistic rivalry amongst its members that many would seem fit to nurture instead of attempting to find a resolution. There are too many camps that have walled themselves off declaring that their way is the only way and that all others are fools. It’s truly a shame because if we all united, we would be a force to reckon with around the world. Perhaps the goal should not be to become completely cohesive at this point but to simply learn to peacefully coexist without agreement?
JDR: At this very moment, as I am writing this, no, I do not think that it is possible. I think that real living vampires need to move on and away from the diseased community.
RVL: Over the course of the 20th and now the 21st centuries there has been a growing divergence between the “Sanguine”, or blood drinking, and “Psi/Psy/Psychic” vampire beliefs. Now, even within the Psi/Psy/Psychic population there are divergences beginning to appear. Without wishing to bring up the subject of “labels” do you think that the sub-culture should look toward a definition that does not include the word ‘vampire’?
AH: That’d be ideal. After all, a large part of the stigma associated with the movement is the use of the term, “vampire” – which inherently has negative attributions. I mean, why would anyone want to identify with a blooddrinking corpse? Or so the perception goes.
I think it’d be interesting to see what would happen if the “vampire” label was dropped. Perhaps it’d enable a greater degree of individuality without needing to adopt traits more commonly associated with the term. But then again, any kind of labelling – be it psis and sanguines – is going to make things go full circle again. That’s what happens when we adopt any kind of label. And what’s interesting is that you see subgroups forming, anyway. I mean, we’re not content to have “rock” – we’ve gotta have rockabilly, psychobilly, rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, soft rock, you name it. All this represents is an attempt to refine individual expressions – by ironically carving subgroups out of it. Human nature strikes again.
HK: I was never fond of the word that we have used for ourselves, it creates an unrealistic stereotype of us and causes the realists of the world to be more inclined to call us wack jobs. No matter what you call yourself, as I stated above, we have a common goal (which is not informing the media) life balance and true happiness with our energy deficient selves. We are all trying to fill that primal need for substance, regardless of our means in doing so.
JDR: I think that Psychic vampires need to use a different label, period. I am referring to a certain faction of psychic vampires within the community, not psy vamps as a whole. Anyway, that, to me, is nothing but a nest of nastiness, lies and vile, ignorant behavior. They, the psy vamps, will never let go of that label. But in the larger picture, it doesn’t matter. The only ones that think that it matters are the OVC/VC. Which, apparently, unbeknownst to them, they are the only ones who actually give a crap or even know who they are. I am what/who I am. I don’t need their permission to live my life and label myself if I so desire. I do not need their validation. They are lost and sad. Yes, the sub-culture would be wise to move away from the word “vampire”. Will they? Never. Why? Because most that haunt the sub-culture do so for attention and to give their pathetic lives some kind of meaning. Without the word “vampire” there is no reason for them to be in said sub-culture.
GF: I think our culture is very much attached to the term “vampire” and will not let it go willingly. Our subculture takes great pride in the term. Again, I do not think that there should be such derisiveness amongst our world, but people are people. There will always be a tendency to break off into factions. It’s our inherent nature as people to form clans, covens, houses, Courts, whatever you want to call them. It is another aspect of self-identification to cultivate others you more closely identify with and guard yourself from the world by banding together. It’s only natural. But the term “vampire” I believe will always remain.
RVL: Do you think that real modern living vampires are at an evolutionary standstill or do you believe that there are still developments in store for the “species”?
HK: I would like to think that we are always trying to make processes easier. We have seen so in the case, observational and survey studies done by the AVA. Even this is a study to get opinions on matters in hopes to correct information and essential change negative behaviors.
New articles about the topic are coming out daily I know of at least two, from a good friend of mine, that have come out in the last 6 months. ( I was never really good at the articles but I have been successful at answering questions and helping people at more of a one on one level.
AH: In context with my comments on the psychological aspect of vampirism, no, I don’t think it’s an evolutionary standstill. If there was, we’d see a biological distinction from basic human physiology – and the fact is, we don’t. Could there be quirks and mutations in that mix, though? Maybe. But they’d certainly be in the minority – and distinct from the Vampire Community as a whole. And of course, we have no real evidence of it anyway. If I could see any future developments, it’d be in the sense of further homogenising of the movement in order to gain mainstream acceptance.
GF: I think there is always room for evolution, though I know too many who have stunted their own by layering themselves with the weight of unnecessary and petty drama. Those that are meant to evolve will. And to quote Darwin, it is simply a thinning of the herd for those who fall behind.
JDR: There is no such thing as an evolutionary standstill. The very nature of evolution is constant change. Evolution happens over a very long period of time. Just because you might not be able to see the change in your lifetime, does not mean that change is not occurring. Nature is about change. Living vampires are a part of nature. So, living vampires, like all other “species’ will continue to evolve, in one way or another.
RVL: Do you foresee a time when real modern living vampirism will be recognised as a valid belief system, such as Wicca and Modern Paganism, and will be recognised as a social entity in its own right?
AH: I certainly do – indeed, I note very clear parallels with Wicca and Modern Paganism, which the Vampire Community largely integrates. We even see that in the archaic tone adopted by the Vampire Community, being divided into “courts” ruled by “lords”, Gothic-style appellations and even using antiquated terms like “vampyre” and “sanguines” – likely derived from cadaverous sanguisuga: bloodsucking corpse.
The Vampire Community has now been given greater recognition, with books dedicated to the subject – like Maria Mellins’ upcoming Vampire Culture, and vampire celebrities like Michelle Belanger, Father Sebaastian, and Don Henrie – who appeared on Mad Mad House. All this represents a distinct change from the coverage given to the Vampire Community from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s.
Stephen Kaplan paved the way for sociological takes on the Vampire Community through the Vampire Research Center, which has culminated in the spate of censuses by groups like the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, also spawning academic interest in the subject. Essentially, the Vampire Community is taken a lot more seriously than it used to be.
GF: I believe it is on the verge of being recognized as a social entity and belief system. I think we will find it to be far more mainstream in the next ten years or so due to the leaders of the community becoming far more outspoken in the media. We simply do not carry the stigma that we used to.
HK: Vampirism is not a religion, so a belief system is not needed and not really relevant. It is not a sickness either for that matter. What we consider Vampirism is a different way of consumption of basic elemental needs for human survival. Like finding a way to take a bath without water we gain sustenance without the traditional food. What we are creating is a different social schema, a different process to doing what everyone else does already, balance energy levels. Other peoples recognition is not the point of our endeavours, therefore should have little relevance in what we do. We are coming together to help others with issues like ours, like a group therapy or even a sportsman club. We need to charge ourselves with the positive and correct education to those with our issues, if we do that right the rest (like acceptance) will fall into place on it’s own.
JDR: I can’t answer that. It is not a belief system for me. It is simply who/what I am. I can believe in martians or biblical angels, if I choose. I cannot choose my truest nature. I can choose how I live with it. For me, it is not a belief. It is what nature created me to be.
RVL: Thank you very much to all our guests for their time and their invaluable input. We would like to express our gratitude, once again, and to say that it has been an honour to work with you on this presentation. With deepest respects and thanks to you all.
AH: Thanks again. It was a pleasure!
HK: Um, Thanks. I hope that I helped explain my opinion on the ways that I think things work. I did not romanticize who we are, sorry for those that were offended. I kept it on a more scientific side, which is a challenge when you are dealing with intangibles. I am available for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or on http://smokeandmirrors34981.yuku.com/ (though I don’t get on there as much as I should) It was an honor to be considered for this and I would like to thank the long time friend that sent me this survey. He has worked hard in making headway for the social study of what or who we are.
*All notations, by the surveyee are listed with the source next to the quote or information used instead of the standard APA format.*
JDR: Thank you for even asking me to participate. I am honored. It has indeed been my pleasure. Deepest respects right back at ya!
GF: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions. As aforementioned, it was a great honor and a pleasure to do so.
Whenever we attempt to trace the development of the “Vampire” we can almost invariably find the links that bind each successive shift in the beliefs about them, the fears of them and the fascination with their existence from the earliest legends. The story of the vampire is not yet finished and it is now with this generation of the real living vampire movement to acknowledge these links and to either destroy them permanently or perpetuate them as a heritage to which we are inextricably bound by the very use of the name.
New generations are, and will continue to be, here who will carry the iconic image through the coming years and as long as the history, the superstitions and the reception by society are there then the legacy of the first vampire, whoever he, she or “it” was, will continue to live on.
Copyright: RVL, Anthony Hogg, Tania F. (a.k.a Hellkat) Gabrielle Faust and
Julia Darkrose Ray 2013 ~ All rights reserved.
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1: Oberlies (1998:155) gives an estimate of 1100 BC for the youngest hymns in book 10. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158) based on ‘cumulative evidence’ sets wide range of 1700–1100
3: a) Regina Hansen (3 May 2011). Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual and Imagery. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-6474-7.
b) Beresford 42, 44–51
4: Cohen, pp. 271–274.
5: William of Newburgh; Paul Halsall (2000). “Book 5, Chapter 22–24”. Historia rerum Anglicarum. Fordham University. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
6: Jones, p. 121.
7: Ármann Jakobsson (2009). “The Fearless Vampire Killers: A Note about the Icelandic Draugr and Demonic Contamination in Grettis Saga“. Folklore 120: 307–316; p. 309.
9: Barber, pp. 15–21.
10: Christopher Frayling (1992) Vampyres – Lord Byron to Count Dracula.
11: Silver & Ursini, pp. 37–38.
12: Marigny, pp. 90–92.
13: Jones, pp. 100–102.
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Frayling, Christopher (1991). Vampyres, Lord Byron to Count Dracula. London: Faber. ISBN 0-571-16792-6.
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